Anxiety Disorders and Social Security DisabilityApproximately 40 million adults in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety can shake up your life, leaving you unable to perform the tasks you once were able to do. As debilitating as it may feel to you, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has strict guidelines to determine the severity of anxiety and whether or not you qualify for benefits based on your anxiety-related disorder. Not everyone who has an anxiety disorder diagnosis is going to qualify for benefits.

Do You Qualify?

There are at least three different ways to prove your eligibility to the SSA. You may qualify for benefits if you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder and you meet the requirements of Section 12.06 in the Listing of Impairments, if your condition is equal in severity to another listing in the Listing of Impairments, or if your anxiety disorder prevents you from earning enough to engage in substantial gainful activity. Below, we will take a closer look at each path to eligibility.

You Meet the Requirements of Section 12.06 in the Listing of Impairments

In January 2017, the SSA changed the disability eligibility criteria for people with anxiety disorders. Now, you may qualify for Social Security disability if you meet the requirements of 12.06(A) and either 12.06(B) or 12.06(C):

  • 12.06(A)(1) requires medical documentation of one of the following: (1) an anxiety disorder characterized by three or more of the following—restlessness, easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, or sleep disturbance; (2) a panic disorder or agoraphobia characterized by one or both of the following: panic attacks followed by a persistent concern or worry about additional panic attacks or their consequences or disproportionate fear or anxiety about at least two different situations; (3) an obsessive-compulsive disorder characterized by one or both of the following: an involuntary, time-consuming preoccupation with intrusive or unwanted thoughts or repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety.

  • 12.06(B) requires you to have an extreme limitation of one or a marked limitation of two of the following areas of mental functioning: (1) understanding, remembering, or applying information; (2) interacting with others; (3) concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; or (4) adapting or managing oneself.

  • 12.06(C) requires that your mental disorder is “serious and persistent.” In other words, you must have a medically documented anxiety disorder over a period of at least two years with evidence of both: (1) medical treatment, mental health therapy, psychosocial support, or a highly structured setting that is ongoing and that diminished the symptoms and signs of your mental disorder; and (2) marginal adjustment or a minimal capacity to adapt to changes in your environment or to demands that are not already part of your daily life.

Remember, while every applicant pursuing disability benefits pursuant to this section must satisfy the requirements of Section 12.06(A), you only need to satisfy 12.06(B) or 12.06(C) in order to get the benefits that you deserve.

Your Anxiety Is Equal in Severity to Another Condition in the Listing of Impairments

If you can prove that your condition is equal in medical severity to another listing in the Listing of Impairments, then you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits. For example, if you have an anxiety disorder but you don’t meet the requirements of Section 12.06 then you may still be eligible if your anxiety is equal in severity to the listing for depression or another specific condition.

You Just Can’t Work

You may not meet the requirements of Section 12.06 and your condition may not be equal in severity to every other listing. Yet, the symptoms of your anxiety disorder may make you unable to work. If you can prove to the SSA that you are unable to engage in substantial gainful activity then you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.

How to Protect Your Rights If You Are Eligible for Disability Benefits

It takes a lot of documentation and paperwork from the right professionals to demonstrate that you have an anxiety-related disorder, and that the impact of your disorder qualifies you for Social Security disability. Because mental disorders are not tangible, it can be hard to prove your disability to the SSA. Therefore, it is important to have medical documentation of your diagnosis and treatment.

It is also important to work with an experienced disability lawyer who can help you through every stage of the Social Security disability application process and who will fight for your fair recovery of benefits. For more information, please read our FREE book, Unlocking the Mystery: The Essential Guide for Navigating the Social Security Disability Claims Process, or call us directly to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for social security disability, you need to speak with an experienced social security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer